No Belief: Spurs 100 – Warriors 136

LaMarcus Aldridge caught the ball at about 18 feet, immediately looked to pass. Unfortunately, he was completely open for that jumper. He missed badly.

I shook my head knowingly. We know the Spurs are at their best with an aggressive LaMarcus Aldridge using his size and talent to get buckets. Usually, when a guy is off — John Wall — he is either forcing shots because he is frustrated at the defense, or getting the shots he wants but just cannot hit. Those are frustrating for we fans at home but completely understandable. Sometimes you are human.

The other kind of bad night is completely strange to see. Just two days previous Aldridge looked like he was worth every penny the Spurs paid him in the first quarter. No one on the Warriors was able to slow him, let alone stop him. Then in that post-ankle quarter-and-a-half he was passive, harrassed, and fading away when he had space. He looked like a QB shook from too many hits.

While the beat writer theory is that Aldridge simply had no where to go, and could not find the rhythm and space because the Kawhi-less Spurs were supporting him. This is part of the reason he was not completely comfortable. The rest? He did not want it.

I do not buy his excuse about overthinking and being a facilitator. He is 31-years old. This is just who he is. The team is the team. This blog has stressed this previously, and so complaining about one of the better big men in the game is silly.

The frustrating part of LMA is the aforementioned contrast between his good games and his bad. That said, was he the entire reason the Spurs lost? No. Jonathan Simmons was the only player attacking the game and trying to win. Pop said as much. Manu called it a “feeling sorry for themselves” game. It makes you wonder if Pop was trying to instill a little fight with his rant.

That is an easy connection to make, but it ignores the previous round where the Spurs got destroyed at home, with both Kawhi and Tony. Oh and the Rockets were a worse team. Golden State was always going to have a game where they exploded, and the Spurs were due for a let down after that great first game (read: half).

With Kawhi

Honestly, I do not know how helpful Kawhi is going to be if he is at 88%. Generally the Spurs do not risk long-term player health for the good of a series. However, Kawhi put it like this: “We are 8 games away from our ultimate goal“.

When Pop sat Timmy Duncan back in 2000 the ultimate goal was farther away an the circumstances of the injury were different. Kawhi was obviously integral to the big lead last Sunday, but if he is shuffling about he will be will hurt everything beside morale.

The issue was and is belief.

Can you blame them, though? A good portion of Spurs fans (myself included) did not really think San Antonio had anything for the Warriors that night. That’s the nature of the game. The game within grasp was always going to be tomorrow’s game three.

Assuming Kawhi is on the floor and this week’s back-and-forth was more Pop cloak-and-dagger, the Spurs have a good shot. In March, the lead was big early thanks to some hot shooting and Warrior turnovers. GSW manages 10 and 12-point runs where the Rockets were getting 8. That game one 18-0 run was already underway when he left, and they have three guys that can absolutely catch fire like no one we’ve ever seen before.

The hope is that Patty makes some of the looks he was getting. He has had trouble with the Warrior length, but it is nothing he has not seen previously. The added responsibility of carrying the starting PG role is stretching him some.

If Kawhi is 100% and brings his scoring average, the Spurs have a shot. It will have to be an early blow-out that they hold on to and not a game-long back-and-forth shot fest. The Warriors have too many guys that can get a bucket late, and enough defense and savvy that the Spurs’ usual advantage schematically is neutered.

Without Kawhi

He is listed as questionable. My gut tells me he will not play. If the head man were anyone other than Gregg Popovich, Kawhi would absolutely play. As it is, Pop has the clout and job security to bench him and essentially calling it a series. The Spurs have no shot at winning four of the next five against Golden State without Kawhi, but they will not have anything for the Dubs and Cavs in future years without him either. Kawhi is just entering his prime, and visions of Grant Hill in his recurring ankle injury are haunting me.

Future

I expect the Spurs to come out looking really good in game three. If the lead is not 20 or 30, then I see a repeat of game one. Hell, even if it is 20 or 30, we could still see a repeat. Pop saw the Warriors only weakness in the form of the bench. He was already limited in attacking that as the Spurs lost that depth, and there is little to no shot of exploiting that when all the cards are on the table up front.

While Jonatan Simmons was the highlight of the second game, that 22 point effort was designed to come off the bench when the Warriors were resting their starters who were thinking about Kawhi Leonard all week. As it was, Jonathan was balling and had no one doing the same when he sat.

After watching Boston get completely embarrassed at home (44 points), the least we can ask for is a competitive game.